“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision”
– Peter F. Drucker
(This is the extended version of my article from Inside Small Business).
Below are three suggestions that may give us depth similar to a much larger organisation – for a fraction of the price.
1. Minimise decision making.
Decision fatigue is real. We operate in an always-connected, 24-hour world. Some sources suggest we make up to 35,000 decisions a day[i]. Sounds like a big number? On food choices alone we average over 227 decisions every day[ii]. And keep in mind, not every decision we make is “necessarily conscious”[iii]. Add to this the fact that successful business leaders often hold the trait of evaluating all the available options, which is known to also elevate stress[iv].
Doesn’t sound like such an impossible number anymore? That’s because it’s not. We need to take it seriously. This will need a broader solution than just following Steve Jobs’ famous hack to wear the same outfit every day (which also may not actually reduce our conscious decision making in any great respect)[v].
So how can we realistically reduce the number of decisions we make in a day? The solution is based in Automation and Delegation.
Try ONE of the four options below. Reduce the complexity around your decision making. (HINT: Your current finances and capacity may direct your choice):
- Automate: Introduce technology to remove the Maybe you could improve your email filter. Or jump in the deep end and introduce a wide-scale technical solution;
- Delegate: Pass repetitive task(s) to an existing team member. Or create (and hire into) a new position for that express purpose;
- Outsource to external parties – From engaging a VA (virtual assistant). All the way up to contracting in specialist expertise.
- Expand your ‘Personal Board of Directors’. This will enhance your ability to make the courageous decisions. Informally – pick up the phone and book a coffee with a trusted colleague to explore your thoughts. Formally – seek out and engage a reputable coach or mentor.
2. Create routines.
Routines delivers many benefits. These include efficiency, resilience and prioritisation. Establishing a routine helps us introduce healthy habits and break poor ones.
Routine will also allow us to replenish our energy. Decision fatigue (overuse) results in decisions that reinforce the status quo. Evident in manufacturing, the court system[vi], and politics. Even top surgeons have been found more reluctant to schedule a new surgery with a patient when it is late in their shift[vii].
And remember to include breaks in your routine for nourishment and mindfulness. A micro-break allows our resources to recover [viii]. And food has the added bonus of delivering energy (in the form of glucose) directly to the brain[ix].
It’s important to remember that fatigue can also cross over from work into our home life[x]. As business professionals, we are already grappling with a such a bleed of our responsibilities.
a. Develop a way to create or improve your routine. Spend a few minutes before bed jotting down the things you need to first attend to the following morning. Or create your day/week in more detail, using some of the automation options discussed above.
Many actions we choose to take can give us advantages in other areas. For example, exercise impacts resilience[xi], creativity[xii] and even productivity[xiii]. Most adults should aim for an average of 7-9 hours’ sleep per night[xiv]. And we are unable to make up for lost sleep unless we adopt a strict routine of regular longer sleep periods[xv]. Smart food choices improves our cognition[xvi], focus and problem-solving abilities[xvii]. And our physical environment impacts us in the same way our teams can (Some are toxic[xviii]. Some are beneficial[xix]).
- Exercise – Begin a physical activity that you’ve always wanted to Or revisit your favourite sport/exercise from childhood.
- Sleep – aim for a minimum of 7 hours sleep a night. Monitor when you are short, and schedule specific nights when you can sleep a little longer to recover.
- Food – Cut out a fast food meal. Or introduce a healthier alternative for a poor one.
- Environment – Minimise distraction. Declutter. Harness the benefits of natural spaces.
[i] Krockow “How Many Decisions Do We Make Every Day?” (accessed 15 Oct 2019)
[ii] Wansink, et al. “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook.”: 112.
[iii] Sahakian & Labuzetta Bad Moves: How Decision Making Goes Wrong: 5.
[iv] Chen, et al “Feeling Distressed from Making Decisions: Assessors’ Need to Be Right.”: 743.
[v] Grohol “Decision Fatigue: Does it Help to Wear the Same Clothes Every Day?” (accessed 15 Oct 2019)
[vi] Danziger, et al “Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions.”: 6889.
[vii] Persson, et al “The Effect of Decision Fatigue on Surgeons’ Clinical Decision Making.”: 1198
[viii] Bennett, et al “Examining the Interplay of Micro-Break Durations and Activities for Employee Recovery: A Mixed-Methods Investigation.”: 14.
[ix] Debatin “A Revised Mental Energy Hypothesis of the G Factor in Light of Recent Neuroscience.”: 207.
[x] Germeys “A Diary Study on the Role of Psychological Detachment in the Spillover of Self-Control Demands to Employees’ Ego Depletion and the Crossover to Their Partner.”
[xi] Childs & de Wit “Regular Exercise Is Associated with Emotional Resilience to Acute Stress…”:5
[xii] Román, et al “Acute Aerobic Exercise Enhances Students’ Creativity.”
[xiii] Sjøgaard, et al “Exercise Is More Than Medicine: The Working Age Population’s… Productivity.”: 164
[xiv] Hirshkowitz, et al (2015) “National Sleep Foundation’s Updated Sleep Duration Recommendations: Final Report”:1
[xv] Akerstedt, et al “Sleep Duration and Mortality – Does Weekend Sleep Matter?” : 10.
[xvi] Spencer, et al “”Food for Thought: How Nutrition Impacts Cognition and Emotion.”
[xvii] Gomez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.”
[xviii] Edem, et al “Impact of Workplace Environment on Health Workers.”: 5.
[xix] Dadvand, et al “The Association between Lifelong Greenspace Exposure and 3-Dimensional Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Barcelona Schoolchildren.”: 7-8.
Akerstedt, Torbjorn, Francesca Ghilotti, Alessandra Grotta, Hongwei Zhao, Hans-Olov Adami, Ylva Trolle-Lagerros, and Rino Bellocco. “Sleep Duration and Mortality – Does Weekend Sleep Matter?”. Journal of Sleep Research 28, no. 1 (2019): n/a.
Bennett, Andrew A., Allison S. Gabriel, and Charles Calderwood. “Examining the Interplay of Micro- Break Durations and Activities for Employee Recovery: A Mixed-Methods Investigation.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology (2019): 1-17.
Chen, Charlene Y., Maya Rossignac-Milon, and E. Tory Higgins. “Feeling Distressed from Making Decisions: Assessors’ Need to Be Right.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 115, no. 4 (2018): 743-61.
Childs, Emma, and Harriet de Wit. “Regular Exercise Is Associated with Emotional Resilience to Acute Stress in Healthy Adults.” [In English]. Frontiers in Physiology 5, no. 161 (2014-May-01 2014).
Dadvand, Payam, Jesus Pujol, Dídac Macià, Gerard Martínez-Vilavella, Laura Blanco-Hinojo, Marion Mortamais, Mar Alvarez-Pedrerol, et al. “The Association between Lifelong Greenspace Exposure and 3-Dimensional Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Barcelona Schoolchildren.” Environmental Health Perspectives 126, no. 2 (2018): 1-8.
Danziger, Shai, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso. “Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions.” [In eng]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, no. 17 (2011): 6889-92.
Debatin, Tobias. “A Revised Mental Energy Hypothesis of the G Factor in Light of Recent Neuroscience.” Review of General Psychology 23, no. 2 (2019): 201-10.
Edem MJ, Akpan EU and Pepple NM. “Impact of Workplace Environment on Health Workers.” Occupational Medicine & Health Affairs (July 31, 2017 2017).
Germeys, Lynn, and Sara De Gieter. “A Diary Study on the Role of Psychological Detachment in the Spillover of Self-Control Demands to Employees’ Ego Depletion and the Crossover to Their Partner.” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 27, no. 1 (2018): 140-52.
Gomez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” [In English]. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9 (2008): 568+.
Grohol, John M., Psy.D. “Decision Fatigue: Does It Help to Wear the Same Clothes Every Day?” Psych Central, https://psychcentral.com/blog/decision-fatigue-does-it-help-to-wear-the-same- clothes-every-day/.
Hirshkowitz, Max, Kaitlyn Whiton, Steven M. Albert, Cathy Alessi, Oliviero Bruni, Lydia DonCarlos, Nancy Hazen, et al. “National Sleep Foundation’s Updated Sleep Duration Recommendations: Final Report.” Sleep Health 1, no. 4 (2015/12/01/ 2015): 233-43.
Krockow, Eva M., Ph.D. “How Many Decisions Do We Make Each Day?” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stretching-theory/201809/how-many- decisions-do-we-make-each-day.
Persson, Emil, Kinga Barrafrem, Andreas Meunier, and Gustav Tinghög. “The Effect of Decision Fatigue on Surgeons’ Clinical Decision Making.” [In eng]. Health economics 28, no. 10 (2019): 1194-203.
Román, Pedro Ángel Latorre, Antonio Pantoja Vallejo, and Beatriz Berrios Aguayo. “Acute Aerobic Exercise Enhances Students’ Creativity.” Creativity Research Journal 30, no. 3 (2018): 310-15.
Sahakian, Barbara J., and Jamie Nicole Labuzetta. Bad Moves: How Decision Making Goes Wrong, and the Ethics of Smart Drugs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Sjøgaard, Gisela, Jeanette Reffstrup Christensen, Just Bendix Justesen, Mike Murray, Tina Dalager, Gitte Hansen Fredslund, and Karen Søgaard. “Exercise Is More Than Medicine: The Working Age Population’s Well-Being and Productivity.” Journal of Sport and Health Science 5, no. 2 (2016/06/01/ 2016): 159-65.
Spencer, Sarah, Aniko Korosi, Sophie Layé, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, and Ruth Barrientos. “Food for Thought: How Nutrition Impacts Cognition and Emotion.” npj Sci Food 1, no. 1 (2017): 7-7.
Wansink, Brian, and Jeffery Sobal. “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook.” Environment and Behavior 39, no. 1 (2007): 106-23.